Sunday, March 14, 2010

Drones and the banality of evil

What appears to be a group of Muslims at prayer, caught in the cross hairs of a US drone
I heard a drone pilot explain it this way: You're going to war for one hour, and then you get in the car and drive home, and within two minutes you're sitting at the dinner table talking about your kids' homework. This is a very different experience of war.(...) You can see the videos on YouTube. It's turning war for some into a form of entertainment. The soldiers call that "war porn." We can see more but experience less. P.W. Singer of the Brookings Institution interviewed in Der Spiegel
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I have been reading about the lives of American drone pilots. These are men and women who punch in at the office and then spend their working hours killing people who are half a world away by remote control, without any physical risk to themselves and  then they punch out and go home to a perfectly normal American suburban family life. This is truly what Hannah Arendt spoke of when she coined the phrase, "the banality of evil".

If you look at the world we are creating, where very few people control almost all the resources and these resources are shrinking, and then we have a technology where this tiny minority can physically control the rest of the world's population at little physical risk to themselves, you can see that we are going down a very sinister path.

While reading about drone pilots, it came to me that this situation has the makings of a great film, something that in the hands of the right director, armed with the right script, could be a landmark in the history of the American cinema, because to me the situation sums up something about contemporary American life that troubles all of us, something about alienation and disconnection that is difficult to express in prose, something that requires the perfect metaphor. In my opinion the drone pilot's life is that metaphor.

Hollywood is all about archetypes, stereotypes and allegories.

To give you an idea of the possibilities, imagine if Billy Wilder had filmed the situation with Jack Lemon as the drone pilot... "The Apartment", with collateral damage.

Maybe you would prefer Alfred Hitchcock in the director's seat with Jimmy Stewart as the desk bound killer. How would Hitchcock work in the suspense?

How would John Ford have handled it with Henry Fonda as the pilot?

Who could do it best today? Who would you cast in it?

I would like to open a conversation about this "film to be" in order to further explore this metaphor of the banality of evil. DS


oldfatherwilliam said...

That's absolutely a Jack Lemon role, but maybe Tom Hanks could pull it off. Tiger Woods came to me, but just as a model. War has been an entertainment form for us since Desert Storm, and the blending with golf might be a natural. Ham-handed but natural. Strangelove stuff.

Stephanie said...

I read somewhere that Obama has authorized more drone missions in the last year than Bush did in his entire term. Also apparently when a similar concept was broached to Ronald Reagan he refused on the grounds of danger to civilians. The American left or what passes for such is largely silent because it's Obama doing the bombing. It's a brave new world.

Diane Mason said...

It would have been a classic with Joseph Losey directing and Dirk Bogarde as the drone operator. Dirk Bogarde in his dark utterly amoral psychopath phase would have been perfect, though he could probably have carried it off in his conflicted inner torment period too.

Stephanie said...

I note I didn't respond to the original question. Choosing only among stars who are alive and the right age, Edward Norton would be good. Matt Damon could also be convincing.

Director: David Fincher or Steven Soderbergh.